John W. James
Founder of The Grief Recovery Institute®
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve
Where were you when I needed you?
The saddest question we ever hear is, "Where were you when I needed you?"
That's what people ask when they find out what we do in helping grievers. We're presenting helpful and accurate information on this site, at the time you need it most, with the hope that you'll never need to ask that question.
It's an honor and a sad privilege to be addressing you, knowing that each of you has recently experienced the death of someone important to you. We also know some of you are reading this because of your care and concern for someone who is confronted by the death of someone important in their life.
We bring our personal experience in dealing with the deaths of people who were important to us, and our professional know-how in helping grievers for more than 30 years. We'll help you distinguish between the "raw grief" that is your normal and natural reaction to the death, and the equally normal "unresolved grief" that relates to the unfinished emotions that are part of the physical ending of all relationships.
A basic reality for most grieving people is difficulty concentrating or focusing. With that in mind, we asked Tributes.com to print our articles in a large type font to make them easier to read. Sharing our concern for grieving people, they agreed.
From our hearts to yours,
John & Russell
Articles & Media
Am I Paranoid, Or Are People Really Avoiding Me?
The simple answer to the question posed in the title of this article is, “No, you’re not paranoid, people really may be avoiding you.”
Even though you may feel like you’re slogging though emotional quicksand, in some respects you might have a heightened awareness of what is going on around you. In particular, you may sense people are avoiding you or changing the subject—away from the cause of your grief—if and when they do talk with you. As a result, you may feel as if you are being evaluated, judged, and criticized.
You may wonder why people who usually talk with you will avoid you or change the subject when you have been affected by a death. In part it’s because most of us were socialized to isolate when we were sad: “Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.” So, if it’s true that we need to grieve alone then it follows that others do also.
The problem is the idea that we should grieve alone is not correct to begin with. What is accurate is that grieving people need and want an opportunity to talk about “what happened” and about their relationship with the person who died.
In our books and articles we talk about the “killer clichés” that are not helpful to us when our hearts are broken. The majority of those clichés are comments that urge us to feel some way other than the way we feel. Most of them begin with “Don’t feel bad,” and then continue with a reason that you shouldn’t. As in, “Don’t feel bad, he or she is no longer in pain.”
When people avoid you because of your grief, it is the non-verbal equivalent of the idea that you shouldn’t feel bad, even though someone important to you has died. By avoiding you or not mentioning the death, the friend thinks they are helping you “not feel bad.” The reality is that by not talking about the one thing that is in the forefront of your mind and heart, they cause more hurt than if they bring up the subject of the loss.
How can I go on without them? Fear is the most normal and common response to loss. Whether it is a spouse, a parent, a child, or anyone else important to you who has died, your brain and heart ask: How can I go on without them? That fear-based question is a healthy emotional reaction to loss. However, in our society, we are not encouraged to express our fear. Everyone wants us to be strong, instead of human. So we cover up our fear and isolate our feelings from others.
On the other side of the equation, we have been led to believe that grieving people want and need to be alone. We are told to “Give them their space.” While it’s true that grievers sometimes want solitude, they also want to be treated normally. But since we were never taught how to talk about feelings of grief, we are afraid to talk to our friends when they have experienced a loss. Therefore our own fear will cause us to avoid grievers altogether or not to mention their loss. Look at the combination we just outlined.
Grievers often avoid others because they are afraid and then isolate themselves. People avoid grievers because they are misinformed and afraid they will hurt the griever by bringing up the topic of their loss. No one is talking about what is most important to the griever. The fact that grieving people need and want to talk about "what happened" and about their relationship with the person who died, doesn’t mean that every griever will want to have a detailed conversation with every one they meet. We just want to make sure they have a chance.
If you are grieving, we suggest you bring up the topic of your loss so those around you can see that you are willing to talk about it. If you are the friend of a griever, instead of avoiding the subject of the loss, at least acknowledge it. A simple comment like, "I was sorry to hear about your loss," can be very helpful to a griever who may be questioning their own sanity because no one is even mentioning their loss. You may be surprised at the heartwarming conversations that follow.
© 2017 Russell P. Friedman, John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute®. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this and other articles please contact The Grief Recovery Institute at email@example.com or by phone, 800-334-7606.
Two First Ladies — No Feelings, Please!)
Preamble: On March 6, 2016, former first lady Nancy Reagan died. In honor of her life, we thought we'd show how human emotions are often distorted in Read More »
Deaths of Celine Dion’s Husband and Brother Open Questions on Grief
The recent death of Celine Dion’s husband, followed a few days later by the death of her brother, opens questions about how grievers cope. By Read More »
Two Year Tragiversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings
Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 marks the second “tragiversary” of the Boston Marathon Bombings which killed three innocent people and injured 254 Read More »
The Art of Condolence
When an acquaintance has lost a loved one, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. Here’s some guidance on offering sympathy with grace. Read More »
The 4th of July—Another Reminder of Those Who Are No Longer Here
The common bond that connects all holiday celebrations is that they tend to be family-oriented events. Whether the holiday commemorates religious Read More »
The Boston Marathon Bombing, The Aftermath: Loss of Life, Loss of Safety, Loss of Trust, and Loss of Innocence
April 15, 2013, the date of the Boston Marathon bombing, joins the list of dates we’d rather not remember, but we can’t forget. It takes its sad Read More »
Post-Holiday, Grief-Related Blues!
Many people are rightfully concerned about the powerful impact the end-of-year Holidays can have on their friends who've recently experienced the Read More »
In the wake of the recent deaths of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, this preiviously published article has good advice for all.
Today I feel compelled to write about a personal loss, that just happens to be one of the national obituaries currently featured on the home page of Read More »
Newtown, Connecticut—Our Grief, Because We Are The Family Of Humankind
Certain events have the power to propel us into an emotional numbness, as if a hidden thermostat inside our hearts shuts us off. The pain is too much Read More »
Veterans Day—Lest We Forget
In its day, World War One was called "The War to End All Wars." Sadly, it wasn't. WW I officially ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day Read More »
Dealing with Grief During the Holidays
Dealing with Grief During the Holidays While there are other critical dates and times that affect grieving people, the holiday season is the biggest Read More »
We Never Forget The Important People In Our Lives.
We recently received a note from a woman named Linda, who had a child die, and who interacts with other parents who’ve also experienced the death Read More »
On Crying—Part Two
In Crying—Part One, we focused on the idea that it can be dangerous and counterproductive to attach our personal ideas and beliefs to how other Read More »
On Crying—Part One
Almost everyone has some questions and confusion about crying. How much crying is enough? If I start crying, will I be able to stop? Do I have to Read More »
9/11: The Aftermath, Loss of Life, Loss of Safety, Loss of Trust, and Loss of Innocence
By Russell FriedmanSeptember 11, 2001 now lives in our language in the same emotional way as December 7, 1941 and November 22, 1963. Nearly everyone Read More »
Am I Going Crazy?—An all-too frequent question from grievers.
“Since my mother’s death, I’ve had the experience of being in one room, deciding to go to another room to do something, and when I get there, I Read More »
Father’s Day 2016 - My Dad, Babe Ruth, and the Ball That’s Still in Orbit
In the kind of emotional reviews our minds and hearts make on chronicling days like Father’s Day, we often discover a level of appreciation that Read More »
Memorial Day, 150 Years Later. Lest We Forget!
Memorial Day as we know it today began as Decoration Day in 1866, in upstate New York, after the cessation of the Civil War. First conceived as an Read More »
Mother’s Day! Remind Me—Remind Me Not—Remind Me
In mid-April there are two things you can count on in the United States. One is the due date for filing your tax return. The other is the arrival of Read More »
BECAUSE WE ARE THE FAMILY OF HUMANKIND
BECAUSE WE ARE THE FAMILY OF HUMANKIND [March 11, 2011]At 11:15 PM on March 10th, 2011, my heart was burning and my stomach was churning. I was Read More »
Am I Paranoid, Or Are People Really Avoiding Me?
The simple answer to the question posed in the title of this article is, “No, you’re not paranoid, people really may be avoiding you.” Even Read More »
Valentine’s Day—For Many, The Most Painful Holiday
The traditional Holiday Season begins around Halloween, continues through Thanksgiving, crests with Christmas and Hanukkah, and ends with New Read More »
Our Reaction to The Tucson Tragedy – Because We Are the Family of Humankind!
Within a two year span, from February 1, 2003 to December 26, 2004, we used the title “Because We Are the Family of Humankind!” for articles we Read More »
Uh-oh, it’s that time again. Grief and the holidays
Many Grievers Wish They Could Skip The Holidays And Jump From Late October To Mid-January The holidays are approaching. A joyous time. A festive time Read More »
Stages of Grief: Are There Actual Stages Of Grief?
Is there any truth behind the idea that grief and loss recovery comes in stages?We are often asked if there are actual stages of grief or grieving. Read More »
Is It Ever Too Soon To Recover?
Conflicting opinions from a wide variety of sources confuse the question of when to begin a process of completing what was left emotionally Read More »
Why Won’t Anyone Let Me Feel Sad?
If we were forced to quantify the problems grieving people encounter, there’s no doubt the number one offense they must confront is being told that Read More »
Six Major Myths – The Short Version
There are six major myths about grief that are so close to universal that nearly everyone can relate to them. This is true not only for those of us Read More »
Do I Have to Cry To Grieve?
"My father died recently. I have been very sad, but I have not cried. Do I have to cry to grieve?"That is a question we get all the time from people Read More »
When Your Heart Is Broken, Your Head Doesn’t Work Right And Your Spirit May Not Soar
For most people, the immediate response to the death of someone important to them is a sense of numbness. After that initial numbness wears off, the Read More »
If I Start Crying Will I Be Able To Stop?
Grieving people sometimes hold back their tears based on the fear that if they start crying, they won’t be able to stop. To the best of our Read More »
Time Doesn't Heal - Actions Do
I have heard that it takes two years to get over the death of a loved one, five years to get over the death of a parent, and you never get over the Read More »
I’m Fine And Other Lies!!!
Approximately 20% of your ability to communicate is verbal, leaving about 80% as non-verbal. Non-verbal communication includes tone of voice as well Read More »
Normal and Natural reactions to the death of someone important to you.
Grief is the wide range of normal and natural reactions to the death of someone important to you. The seven most common reactions are: Read More »
If you or someone important to you wants help with grief: Look for a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist℠ in your community. The Grief Recovery Institute ® trains and mentors Certified Grief Recovery Specialists℠ throughout the United States & Canada.
Workshops & Training Schedule
The Grief Recovery Institute ® offers Certification Training programs for those who wish to help grievers.
April 2017Indianapolis, IN - April 7-10, 2017
Princeton, NJ - April 7-10, 2017
Reading, Berkshire, England - April 21-24, '17
Denver, CO - April 21-24, 2017
Vancouver, BC, Canada - Apr 28-May 1,'17
San Francisco, CA - Apr 28-May 1,'17
May 2017Seattle, WA - May 5-8, 2017
Dallas, TX - May 5-8, 2017
Milwaukee, WI - May 19-22, 2017
Torquay, Devon, England - May 19-22, '17
Regina, SK, Canada - May 19-22,'17
Los Angeles, CA - May 19-22, 2017